I was able to write about my trip to Germany in one of my college papers!
I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a mission trip to a Christian camp in Germany this summer. I have always had an interest in missions. So, when I found one that involved art, one of my other interests, I knew it was the trip for me. The camp was huge with 3,000 teenagers in attendance. The campers came from various countries around the world. Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Italy, the UK, the US, and even Egypt were represented. It was a new experience to be among so many languages, lifestyles, and nationalities at one time. In Germany, I was able to help others through art, form lasting friendships, and learn hands on about other countries and cultures.
My sister, Melissa, also came on the trip. Before we could go, we had to get passports and shots, because this trip was the first time we had been out of the United States. After much planning and fundraising, we had the costs covered. We applied and submitted an art portfolio to the mission organization that was running the camp. We were so happy when we were notified that it was approved.
The art area, my team members and I worked at, was called the “Art Zone”. It was one of the many of activities at the camp, which ranged from human foosball to games of chess with huge chess pieces. It was open at different times for art workshops, or just as a place for teens to come in and work on whatever they felt like. All the work was hung up on the walls for everyone to see. An Art Zone area was also set up during the times of worship for the teens to express themselves artistically. At the end of the week, the artwork was auctioned off to raise money for people living in a poor European country called Moldova.
The Art Zone, in the worship area, didn’t have tables or chairs. Instead, teens painted on the temporary walls and on paper set up on the floor. One boy, who was ten or eleven, stepped in green paint while wearing white shoes! Now from having a 12-year-old brother at home, I know that boys that age are not the best at cleaning up. I got paper towels and began cleaning off the paint. Inside my head I was thinking, “Why did I come all the way to Germany to clean some paint off a kid’s shoe?” I wanted to do something great, important, and amazing while I was over there.
I learned that on mission trips things aren't always as glamorous as they are made out to be. They aren’t one bit simple. Some days I started my prayers with "God why?" I became frustrated when some of the other members got credit for their great creative ideas and some how got out of the jobs I always got stuck doing. I felt like all I did was get assigned little things that nobody cared about, like sweeping the floor and wiping the tables. While I was cleaning the little boy’s shoe, an interesting parallel crossed my mind; Jesus cleaned His disciple’s feet at the last supper. That act showed humility and I was acting the total opposite. He didn’t have to clean their feet, but it was something He wanted to do. It was very symbolic of His character. From then on, my perspective changed. I realized what it meant to serve others. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get a thank you from the kid who stepped in paint, what mattered is that I learned a lesson in humility.
I often helped the teens pin up their work if they were having trouble. One time, two young French boys asked me in French if I could hang their work. My two years of high school French didn’t help me understand a word, so I had to play a guessing game to find out what they said. “A pen?” I asked and moved my hand in the air like I was writing. They shook their heads and repeated themselves while trying to point at objects to help me understand. I finally figured out what they wanted. When they realized I understood them, they were so happy that someone took the time to understand and help them. It made me feel like I was making a difference even in the smallest ways.
I think that both having an interest in art and sharing the same faith were two reasons the Art Zone team became so close. We all learned so much from each other. Peter, the German in our group, was very opinionated and blunt. He told one of the other American girls that she needed to stop talking with her mouth open. He asked me what Americans thought about recycling, global warming, and energy. He bragged about how Germany was focused on those things. Peter was surprised that none of the Americans at the camp had ever seen the movie Al Gore made. He thought that was the most important movie to see!
Gerhard and Kathi were also a part of the Art Zone team. They were from Austria. Kathi had dreadlocks and Gerhard told us that he used to have dreadlocks until he cut his hair a few months before. They said the area they live in is a huge tourist attraction for skiing. That is what they like to do for fun.
By talking to Kathi, I learned that Austrian teenagers have an immense amount of pressure at a young age. Most Austrians start living on their own when they are 16. At 16, they are considered an adult and have to make choices early on about what career they want to have. As a result of the stress, caused by the pressure, Austria has one of the highest suicide rates for young people. She said if she wasn’t a Christian she probably would already taken her life.
Akeelah and Josh were from England and came to serve in the Art Zone. They ate so proper. My American friend, Jessa, asked them if there really is teatime. “When you’re happy you have a cup of tea. When you’re sad you have a cup of tea. When you’re mad you have a cup of tea. Whenever is when you have a cup of tea,” Josh told us. We all thought that was funny!
All the countries had different ways the school systems were set up. In Europe, college is what they call high school and university is what they call college. Peter was 19, but still had one more year of school because in Germany they have one more year of school than in the US. In the UK, they complete school when they are 16 and if they want to go on to the university then they must take additional courses for two years. It only takes three years to get a degree at a university over there. If they don’t want to attend a university then they can get an apprenticeship, to train for a career.
Everyone in the Art Zone team had a lot of fun together. During our free time, we went shopping and explored Offenburg, the town we stayed in. We ate ice cream at this quaint place and it was by far the best thing I tasted. We played card games and took lots of silly pictures. Our team all thought imitating each other’s accents was amusing. It was hilarious! We even got some video clips of it.
I am so glad I was able to go and become a well-rounded person. If I would have let the thoughts at the beginning of the trip take control, I would have missed out on the great lessons that I learned and the friendships I made. Humility teaches you to put others before yourself. I had much more of a willingness to help those who needed it. By seeing and experiencing how people live differently, I became more aware of the world around me and what difference I can make.